By Marin Cogan, GQ
This story originally appeared on GQ.com: The View From Romney Country
At the farm bureau center in Doswell, Virginia, bluegrass singer Ricky Scaggs leads Mitt Romney's supporters in singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." They drove south of Richmond to this rustic events center, framed on the outside by fields and an early winter sky, and were shuttled over from the parking lot in a caravan of open-air vehicles, like hayrides without the hay.
Spontaneous crowd sing-a-longs are not usually an exercise in beautiful music making, but this one, a cappella and led by Scaggs, sounds not just good -- it sounds downright beautiful. In these final few days of the Romney campaign everything seems a bit more cinematic. They begin the rally with a touching introduction video for the Romney family, black and white and sound-tracked with sentimental music and a voiceover from Ann Romney attesting to her husband's devotion when she was sick with multiple sclerosis. After dispensing with the local campaign surrogate speeches, they show another documentary: of a small businesswoman near tears because she might have to close down her restaurant. It is impossible not to feel her pain.
The crowd is given a few moments to quietly reflect on her plight. A John Williams-ish score kicks in and a big white Romney campaign bus rolls literally into the rally -- something no campaign has done this year -- and I almost expect a basketball playing dog to jump out and great the cheering citizenry, but it's Romney who hops out and bounds up onto the stage to deliver his stump speech. Like the previews, the set is perfect. A huge American flag canopies Romney and his backdrop of supporters and on either side they are framed with bales of hay. If Romney seems reasonably worn down by the grueling schedule (and to me he does) the set up is a good distraction, creating a larger than life backdrop from which he can make his final case against the president.
That Romney's campaign rallies feel increasingly like big budget motion pictures is no accident. As The New York Times writes today, his advance team, led by John Legittino, have taken to "producing Hollywood-caliber events with a fraction of a film director's time and budget" with obsessive, virtuosic attention to detail: the light created by the setting sun, the way a flag flutters in the breeze, how the image will look through the viewfinder of a camera lens. The idea is to make Romney look like the next president of the United States and it's effective -- the Farm Bureau Center in Doswell Virginia is undoubtedly Romney country. It is a place where his supporters seem optimistic if not confident that Mitt Romney is about to win Virginia and the presidency.
"I think it's going to go red," Karen-Ann Bauserman, a small business owner in a bright red jacket from Caroline county, says of her state. "Granted, a lot of the northern part of the state is blue...they're either on welfare or working in the government, but down here, with the farmers, in the dirt, no."
"I'm a Beckian raised on Rush. I live by Stutistics. You know what I mean? Not statistics, Stutistics," she says, referring to Stu Burguiere, the conservative talk radio host and Glenn Beck ally who, like many of his allies on the right, have spent the year tackling liberal bias in the media and the polls. "I do live by Rasmussen, but mostly a lot of what the people have to say. And a lot of people I've spoken to did vote for Obama but a lot of people won't this time," she says.
Their belief in Mitt Romney's impending victory has not come from nowhere. It's not just about the "momentum" or the squishier sentiments elicited by campaign set pieces but also a realm of pundits and media sources that argue that the mainstream polls and opinion which show Obama holding a small but fairly consistent lead are wrong because they're partial toward Democrats.
"I'm pretty much a political junkie, and I've been watching the polls pretty closely," says Carolee Bryant, a Republican from Highland Springs. Bryant checks Real Clear Politics' poll tracker "more times a day than you could possibly count," watches Fox News and loves talk radio.
"The pollsters always overdo the Democrats -- they always sample more Democrats than Republicans," she says, as a way of explaining Obama's lead. "It's been going [Romney's] way now for six weeks. Where I live, four streets over it used to be all the signs for Obama. This year there are two signs. Whenever you drive around the state there aren't any Obama signs. People are fed up with him."
Closeness of the race withstanding, there are some cracks in this facade. Romney's near perfect campaign event was interrupted by a heckler screaming "Climate change caused Sandy!" just one of the signs that, outside of the Farm Bureau Center, Virginia might not be Romney country after all. The polls are very tight in Virginia, showing either a narrow lead for Obama or a narrower lead for Romney. So for now, Romney's supporters are also employing a bit of hope: "It's been four years of failure. I check Real Clear Politics. I like Fox News. And I'm praying that it's going to be Romney Ryan," says Paula Dozier, a Richmond woman. "I'm cautiously optimistic."